ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Remembering 1857

To discuss the practice of memory and its relations to politics, social scientists rely on three kinds of practices - memorialising, memorising and the act of remembering/forgetting. The commemoration of "1857" is unique in that official celebrations of the event have been instituted even as 1857 continues to refigure in myths and endures as a symbol of popular resistance. The articles in this special issue address the seeming contradictions and complexities that "remembering" 1857 involves, and the tension that prevails between different kinds of recall.

T he 150th anniversary of 1857 is being celebrated in many parts of India. That is one kind of remembering of the historical rebellion. Anniversaries ring of calendars set to different scales, from the national and the regional to the personal. Calendars mean order, some ordering of national or personal time. There must be an element of unintended historical irony about the process by which popular rebellions or insurgencies the quintessential politics of which is to challenge an oppressive order by collective gestures of defiance, a phenomenon that Ranajit Guha once called negation become domesticated festive dates on a national calendar and cease to act, or so at least the makers of the calendar hope, as an incitement to further rebellion.1 This short introductory essay is built around the tension between these two kinds of recall of the original event: as a recurring, ceremonial date in the life of the nation and as a perpetual incitement to future rebellion.

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